Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Amendment I - "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The First Amendment of the Constitution and the beginning of our Bill of Rights, establishes four of our most cherished and important rights as citizens of The United States. While this series has covered the Freedom of Religion in the first segment of the series, this will cover the remainder of the First Amendment, the Freedoms of Speech, Press and our right to express our dissent and grievances with our government.

One of the keys to understanding what the Framers intended with regards to these basic and fundamentally important Freedoms found in the First Amendment is located in the very beginning of the Amendment. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment...." with the stress falling upon the non - establishment of law.

To allow a nation and its citizenry the right of free expression through speech, press, and dissent with the government it must first be established that the government by law does not have the capability of creating any form of law that can inhibit these rights. The Framers in their collective wisdom understood from experience that a government that does not have the Constitutional restraints in place to prevent the establishment of law that could regulate or completely eliminate a citizens right of free expression was a government not by and of the people but one that becomes dictatorial over its people.

The very idea that begins the Constitution with, "We the People." establishing us as a nation and a government whose very existence is by the will of the people in itself demanded that as our first and fundamentally most important right of free expression be created by prohibiting the government from denying those rights by creating laws preventing or hampering them.

Thus the phrase which begins the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment..." of religion, or prohibiting speech, the press or expressing grievances with our government.

This profound establishment by the Framers concerning our rights as citizens removes any governmental restraints, regulation or law from these most precious and cherished of our rights as Americans. In the same manner it also places full responsibility of the exercise of these rights solely in the hands of , "We the People."

With these fundamental rights given us by law in the Bill of Rights we as citizens have a profound responsibility to exercise our rights of speech, press and dissent WITH responsibility. By establishing personal responsibility for the people the Framers understood the necessity in a free society for each citizen to assume personal responsibility for their actions, their tongue, their pen and their government.

This also establishes that in the exercise of these rights we as responsible citizens must not abuse these rights to hamper or trample the same rights of our fellow citizens. Responsibility at times calls for discretion, consideration, respect, restraint and understanding. Whether it is in the practice of religion, speech our writings or our dissatisfaction of our government the Framers placed the responsibility of we as free Americans upon our own conscience to control each of these freedoms in our lives.

Abusing these rights to the detriment of a fellow citizens or the press in destroying the character of an individual or threatening the security of the nation and its citizens through irresponsible reporting in not what the Framers intended in establishing these fundamental rights.

The abuse of these rights also necessitates applying the law where applicable. For instance while we have a right to express dissent with our government, we do not have the right to express that dissent by destroying property or defacing the same. Thus the law must step in to protect property from destruction of defacing.

As citizens of , "the land of the free, " we have great responsibility in the exercise or our freedoms both to our nation and our fellow Americans. We must exercise these freedoms while responsibly keeping from trampling on the freedoms of others and respecting their right to be free as well. The Framers understood this great responsibility and its necessity for the establishment of a nation, " of the people, " and a nation of free American citizens!

Ken Taylor